Assistant coach Mzwandile Stick says newcomer Ruhan Nel boasts the attributes that remind him of former Springbok centre Marius Joubert, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Port Elizabeth.
Nel was the surprise inclusion in the Bok squad for the upcoming home Tests against the Wallabies and the All Blacks, with the Springbok Sevens star having caught the eye after producing some robust performances for Western Province in the Currie Cup.
Stick is a former Springbok Sevens player himself, and was understandably all smiles when asked about the selection of Nel at Monday’s press conference in warm but windy Port Elizabeth.
‘If I compare him with one of the legends of the game, he reminds me of Marius Joubert, who was always sneaking around the field and had a real eye for space. That is something I can see Ruhan also possesses, and his work rate also can’t be underestimated.
‘We have to give credit to the sevens system, where they have won two [World Rugby Sevens] series in the past three years. There is something that they are doing well, and their players are being recognised. It’s also great that Rassie is willing to look at the sevens player for fifteens.’
Nel’s inclusion comes after injuries to centres Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am, and so it will be interesting to see how the Boks opt to integrate the 27-year-old into their system.
Stick hinted that there was a long-term plan in mind as the Boks seek to continue expanding their squad depth.
‘We’ve seen what Ruhan offered in the Western Province team, and we have identified real potential. So we want to afford him an opportunity, especially as we continue to build towards the World Cup next year. There is fresh energy in our squad, and I think Ruhan will add to that.’
Cheslin Kolbe is another former sevens player who has impressed since linking up with the Boks prior to their Australasian tour, and Stick hailed the character of the diminutive utility back.
‘The word for Cheslin is X-factor. He is a very special player and the one thing about him is that you shouldn’t focus on his size, because he has a big heart. The first game when Cheslin came off the bench [against Australia], he hadn’t had much time with us, but you already saw against the All Blacks [in Wellington] how he made some big calls and big tackles. Of course, he can also create something from nothing on attack, so he adds a lot to our side.’
Photo: Martin Seras Lima/Gallo Images